NEWS | UA Establishes Bachelor's Degree in Architectural Engineering

Friday, March 10, 2017

The University of Arizona is offering a new undergraduate program to better prepare engineers for collaborating with architects.

The Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering is based in the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and offered in partnership with the School of Architecture in the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture (CAPLA).

“This four-year curriculum seamlessly blends core engineering subjects like math, statistics, mechanics, physics and chemistry with architectural courses in theory, history, and drawing,” said professor and department head Kevin Lansey.

“By combining architecture’s big-picture, top-down approach with engineering’s component-up approach to building design and construction, we will produce a new kind of engineer who can mix easily with traditional structural engineers, architects, construction managers, and building owners.”

As one of only four universities west of Texas offering an undergraduate architectural engineering degree, the UA will expand opportunities for students and the pool of qualified job applicants in Arizona, said Ronald H. Schneider, founder and principal of the Tucson office of Schneider Structural Engineers.

“When hiring, we look for engineering students who have taken courses in architecture, because it shows they have an interest in architecture -- an attractive attribute in a job candidate,” he said. “This new degree will make UA civil engineering students even more attractive to firms like ours.”

Incoming freshmen and sophomores can start the new program in fall 2017. Career paths include working at engineering, architectural, or construction management firms, becoming licensed professional engineers or pursuing graduate studies.

Built to Last

Architectural engineers focus on design and construction of a building’s components -- such as framing, stairwells, concrete, insulation materials -- and its systems  -- electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, plumbing, fire protection -- to ensure a building will stand, be energy- and cost-efficient and capable of weathering environmental pressures such as storms, floods and earthquakes.

“Architects design what you see; architectural engineers design what you don’t see,” Lansey said.

Whether focused on a building’s aesthetics or internal workings, professionals on construction projects increasingly work in teams.

“Traditionally, a property owner would hire an architect or engineering consultant to draw up plans and write specifications for a building, then launch a bidding process to select a builder,” said Dean Papajohn, associate professor of practice, who leads the construction management track in UA’s civil engineering program. 

“Sometimes this has led to conflicts among the parties. Now, many building projects are taking a design-build, or integrated project delivery, approach -- where an owner hires a team of engineers, architects, and construction managers under a single contract. We are training students to work on integrated teams like these.”

Architectural Engineering students at the UA will learn to think and speak like architects, while making sure a building is structurally sound, meets codes, stays within budget, and on schedule. They will spend their senior year working on a capstone design project in the labs and loft spaces of CAPLA.

A Beautiful Partnership

“This program represents a beautiful partnership between the College of Engineering and School of Architecture,” said Ray Barnes, a UA lecturer in architecture who has designed many buildings in Arizona.

Barnes, a LEED-accredited architect, noted the new program will stress environmentally sustainable building design and teach students about Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, one of the most popular green-building rating systems in the world.

He and Schneider are two of several professional engineers and architects who helped design the curriculum to meet the needs of the building industry, particularly in the Desert Southwest.

Student Perspectives

Kelly Collins got her bachelor’s degree in architecture at Georgia Institute of Technology before coming to the UA for a bachelor’s in civil engineering. 

“In architecture school, there was a lot of emphasis on understanding the building as a whole,” said Collins, a junior. “Once I got into the real world, the disconnect between the architecture and engineering sides of building design became pretty apparent. I think the new degree program will be beneficial because it gives engineers – who are typically well-versed in their specialty, but somewhat clueless about the rest of a building -- a more well-rounded view on building design that will help the entire team work more efficiently.”

College of Engineering freshman Hector Garavito is enrolling in the new major to build a family tradition.

“My grandfather was a successful civil engineer in Mexico who built governmental correctional facilities, bridges, and other structures,” he said. “My mother has a college degree in architecture but, due to family circumstances, has not yet been able to use it and is now pursuing work in the field. I am following in their footsteps.”

Garavito aspires to work with general contractors and other engineers to create buildings and eventually start his own firm, and, “to build and design a house for my mother.” 

Learn more about the curriculum and requirements for Architectural Engineering. Or contact Kevin Lansey, head of UA Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, at or 520.621.6564.

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